Australians have until sometime in June 2015 to try connecting to one of Telstra’s Wi-Fi hotspots free of charge for up to 30 minutes.
As previously reported late last year, Telstra expects to install 8000 hotspots across Australia, and through its partnership with Fon, expects more than 2 million hotspots for its customers to connect to across Australia over the next 5 years.
Telstra customers will also get access to Fon’s network of 14 million hotspots worldwide.
This much larger hotspot figure will go live thanks to new Telstra routers which share part of a home or business Wi-Fi network with the public via a securely separated Wi-Fi network that Telstra customers can choose to make available, or not.
If Telstra customers make part of their Wi-Fi network available, they can then connect to other Telstra Wi-Fi hotspots and use that connection and have downloads count towards their existing broadband download limits.
Telstra has also announced it will bring Wi-Fi to its ‘entire 80 owner retail store’ footprint later this year.
More details on how to connect to each hotspot and what the limits, terms and conditions are can be see here at this Telstra Crowdsupport site.
Telstra’s Retail Group Executive, Gordon Ballantyne, noted the Wi-Fi network’s rapid growth, and said the expansion “will mean we will bring an extra 60 locations online with places as wide spread the Whitsundays and Mount Gambier joining more than 250 suburbs and towns already connected.”
Ballantyne said: “Australians are proving to be fast adopters of Wi-Fi, with more than 1 million unique devices connecting to the 1,100 hotspots we have switched on since November.
“We want the community to be a part of the rollout and are giving them a chance to tell us where we should be switching on 500 of the new sites. We have a list of areas where we think Australians might like to use Wi-Fi but we want to know for sure by asking people where they would like the next Wi-Fi hotspots switched on.
“We are asking Australians to go to [our New Wi-Fi Nation website] and pick their preferred location from the list so we know which hotspot locations will really help people connect in regional areas around Australia.”
“Consumers are telling us they love the speed and reliability of the service which is typically strong enough to let them stream video, update apps and almost instantly share photos on social media which has lead to more than 270 TB of data downloaded since November, we know Aussies are loving using the free trial so we want to make sure we are putting the new hotspots in locations they want them.”
You can visit Telstra’s Wi-Fi finder site to find where your closest Telstra Wi-Fi hotspot is located, although most are on Telstra payphone booths with a purplish Wi-Fi logo prominent visible.
Once you’ve found a Telstra Wi-Fi hotspot, you turn your device’s Wi-Fi on and look for the ‘Free_Telstra_WiFi’ network name.
Be sure it looks exactly like Free_Telstra_WiFi so you’re not connecting to a rogue hotspot created by someone nefariously trying to spy on your network traffic.
Telstra doesn’t ask for any passwords, you just need to accept the Terms and Conditions and start using the free Wi-Fi service.
As Telstra warns in its Crowdsupport site linked to above, Telstra does not recommend you do any Internet banking, although Telstra could simply have warned users to use a VPN to protect their browsing and surfing activity.
That said, advising customers to use a VPN on their computers, smartphones and tablets likely adds an additional layer of complexity Telstra doesn’t want to have to deal with or help customers with, especially in a free trial situation, so as with all things on the Internet, ‘Caveat Wi-Femptor’, or ‘let the Wi-Fi user beware’.
Ballantyne then reminds us that: “When the full network launches customers who sign up to become a member of the network will have access to more 3,500 Telstra built Wi-Fi hotspots, the residential hotspots created by other members and more than 14 million hotspots worldwide.”
Those who aren’t Telstra customers can still take advantage of the network once the free trial is over, Telstra will simply have a ‘small charge’ to gain access using ‘guest passes’, although what this small charge will be is yet to be disclosed by Telstra.